California-based Christian musician Sean Feucht hosted a worship service Sunday evening at Schenley Park’s Flagstaff Hill that drew about 200 people. Few attendees of the “Let Us Worship” outdoor concert wore masks or were socially distanced.
Feucht, a controversial Christian pastor and activist, has been holding large gatherings across the country despite COVID-19 guidelines. This rally comes the night before Pitt’s Monday move to the Guarded Risk posture — the lowest level of the University’s three-tiered reopening system. This move will allow for greatly expanded in-person instruction opportunities.
Pitt spokesperson David Seldin said Pitt public safety officials coordinated with City and Carnegie Mellon University officials to address the gathering. He added that all students should avoid large gatherings.
“Our students have been doing a great job all semester and now is not the time to let down their guard,” Seldin said. “We should all continue observing the same rules as we have — wearing face coverings, keeping physically distant and avoiding large social gatherings.”
Feucht said when talking about the COVID-19 pandemic that this is “maybe this is what our country needed” to draw more people to worship.
“Things have gotten a little crazy, a little more undomesticated, a little more raw. Maybe this is what we needed in America,” Feucht said. “Maybe we needed to wake up, maybe our churches were too safe. Maybe we were too predictable. Maybe we forgot the power of our praise.”
City police spokesperson Cara Cruz said the City’s public safety team doesn’t enforce Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidelines and orders on COVID-19 safety regulations, such as wearing masks, social distancing or adhering to occupancy limits. She said Public Safety officials have instead taken an “educational approach” during the pandemic.
A religious gathering is exempt from Pennsylvania’s limits on crowd gatherings, including the less-restrictive capacity limits for outdoor gatherings announced earlier this month by Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine. Under current guidelines, an outdoor event with up to 2,000 attendees would be limited to 25% capacity for the venue.
The event drew criticism from Pitt’s Association of Chaplains, which said in a statement that it does not “condone nor encourage” the gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No matter your religious or political views, for health and safety reasons we do not support the patterns we have observed with ‘Hold the Line’ gatherings in other cities, as they have displayed large numbers of people with no masks or social distancing,” the statement said.